8.5

Fun shooter that gives you beautiful environments with a satisfying skillshot system.

Bulletstorm is an outrageous shooter from People Can Fly, the developers who created Painkiller and brought Gears of War to PC. Using the Unreal 3 engine to great effect the combat in Bulletstorm makes other shooters seem boring. You play as the crude Grayson Hunt, an ex black ops soldier who leads a small team on a quest of atonement. Their target is this sarcastic General Sarrano who was in charge of ordering the execution of innocents at Grayson's hands. Grayson and the General crash land on a resort planet after a brief but eventful space battle.

After crashing your goal is to help Ishi escape and find the General. Ishi, part of Grayson's team, was saved during the battle via an ad-hoc merger with AI. His unpredictable digitized personality requires power to survive. The vibrant resort planet of Stygia is home to hostile aliens, mutant plant life, electrical storms, rivers of radiation and prehistoric creatures. The pair follows a sassy female soldier, Trishka, who initially rejects their presence but later joins them for a common goal. This story is impressive for a shooter due to its hilarious delivery but it may be too crude for some. It is the shooting that elevates Bulletstorm above many others.

Bulletstorm introduces a point system that rewards you for killing in different ways. You may get rewarded for kicking enemies off cliffs, impaling them on spikes or shooting them in the head. Points are multiplied for Killing more at once and unlocking new skillshots. To aid in these skillshots you can use a leash that reaches out to grab objects or enemies. The objects are brought back to Grayson and enter an isolated stasis field that allows you to make headshots with ease. Grayson can kick them any direction he likes and move to the next target. The reason this simple mechanic works so well is because of the point system, shooting and environmental hazards.

The point system is justified as a solution that rewards the best soldiers with more ammunition. Dropkick pods, located throughout the game, take points in exchange for weapon upgrades or ammunition. This simple incentive has been built into the game lore quite well. There is good deal of fulfilment from seeing bodies fall followed by points and the type of kill. Occasionally you might accidentally kill an enemy by shooting him; this measly point reward will seem like a failure. On the opposite end of the scale when you score highly you'll feel as elated as your character, "It's a murder party, starring me!"

Weapons in Bulletstorm have been designed with a crazy feel especially with the expensive charge shots for each weapon. The pistol charge shot fires a flare that sticks into enemies, hurling them through the air into explosive barrels or off the edge of cliffs. The sniper rifle charge shot lets your steer an explosive bullet to its destination. The Flailgun traps an enemy within a grenades connected by a chain, giving you enough time to kick them anywhere you wish.

What works just as well as the weapons is the environment surrounding the battles. Large cacti impale enemies granting you a Voodoo skillshot. Bare electricity wires will shock any you kick toward it. Hot Dog carts explode and put those nearby into stasis. Spore pods burst and the gas it releases makes foes attack each other. Sacks can be kicked onto heads taking them out of the fight while they dance around helplessly. Even small ponds with piranhas turn your adversaries into fish food.

You won't face a lot of enemies until the last few hours of the game. Up until then you are starved of combat enough to love every bit when it falls your way. When the action gets insane you'll wonder why they didn't give you more enemies earlier. What it does do well is slowly introduce new mutant gangs, environments and weapons. You get a sense that there is always something new and dangerous coming and you are rarely disappointed. The price of all this fun is some absurd vulgarity.

Bulletstorm is funny and crude but rarely both at the same time. It strings together swear words like it was a new language. Perhaps this was done so the outrageous combat would seem grounded in contrast. Bulletstorm is a funny game hidden underneath the vulgarity. It's best to ignore the swearing and laugh when the situation demands it. The funniest thing Grayson actually says is "I feel like I should say something witty here" after witnessing one of several hilarious scenes.

Bulletstorm does have a few flaws that seem rather strange when the rest of the game is well polished. From start to finish the game puts invisible walls everywhere, ledges, stairwells and even cliffs. If you want to take a shortcut down a stairwell you just can't. You can't even jump aside from pre-defined waist high walls. While this prevents you from sliding off ledges it becomes irritating because it doesn't mesh with the freedom of combat.

Bulletstorm uses regenerating health and Grayson can take a lot of damage before it becomes a problem. It is only really in the late stages of the campaign, during a silly difficulty spike, when this happens frequently. When it does you are told to take cover, which generally means crouching behind a wall. Unfortunately it completely breaks the flow of combat. Just when things get hectic you are hiding like a fool waiting for the screen to stop flashing. Why force the player out of the combat when it reaches its peak?

The campaign takes around seven hours to complete, after which you can try the echoes challenge mode or the multiplayer horde mode. The echoes mode consists of short action sections taken from the campaign in which you race against the clock to get good scores. These bite sized areas of violence are fun to replay several times but the same is true for most of the campaign. The multiplayer puts you with players against hordes of AI enemies. You must earn enough points to proceed to the next wave. The added lag makes the killing very clunky which greatly reduces the potential enjoyment.

Bulletstorm is a great shooter that gives a bad first impression. As you continue through the campaign it becomes more refined and even hilarious despite the vulgarity. The shooting, leash, and environmental interaction melds together to create very addictive action. You won't be satisfied just to kill a screaming enemy. You will be constantly thinking about how to kill them in the most insane way. This is the true success of Bulletstorm: it changes how you think about shooting.

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